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Restaurant Review January 27, 2006
 
Pre-teen Sandwiches
By Jake Rudnitsky Browse author Email
 
 

One idea that's time is long overdue in Moscow is the neighborhood deli. It really shouldn't be that hard to pull off - just about every city in the world has some type of tasty local fast food that you can grab on any corner. People like to pretend there's differences between each one, that you can find the best falafel or slice of pizza or what-have-you, but the important thing is a critical mass. This guarantees the quality doesn't slip below a certain point and, while there might be marginal improvements from one joint to another, the basic decentness is ensured.

Moscow, of course, doesn't have any sort of local food. So when a place like 13 SANDWICHES opens in the void, it's much easier to judge it for everything it's not. After all, if it were the type of place that was repeated ad nauseum throughout the city, you wouldn't feel gypped by the fact that you went out of your way to try it. In fact, you wouldn't even need to review it at all, because it'd be a known quantity. Connoisseurs could just wait for Afisha's annual Best of issue to tell them which one was the best in town and then they could feel like they were in the know.

But that's beside the point, because this is Moscow. So when I found myself trekking halfway across the city to try a sandwich at this new 'gourmet bistro' I was already predisposed to not like it. It turns out that their claim of delivery is greatly exaggerated, and they only cover the immediate neighborhood. And, as I found out the hard way, their sandwiches are not made to travel. They'll pack them to go, but the assembly doesn't take into account that there should be a lettuce barrier shielding the bread from the mayo or mustard. So, those foolish enough to order food to go will find a soggy and greasy sandwich awaiting them when it's unwrapped.

Furthermore, given the fact that they don't even deliver, the prices seem a bit outlandish. Apparently because of 13 Sandwiches' gourmet pretensions, the prices have been jacked up to 150 rubles for a small sandwich and 250 for a large. I ordered the larges, and they were anything but. I imagine the smalls are about the size of a tapa at the nearby Tapa d' Comida. R250 would be perfectly acceptable if it were a Jacks-sized effort, but it ain't alright for something that doesn't constitute a full meal. It's not like this place is facing a huge overhead or the ingredients are extremely expensive: so what gives with the overblown prices? Is it the fresh baked bread?

13 Sandwiches' one saving grace is that the sandwiches were actually pretty good. No doubt they would have been even better if we'd eaten them at the cafe when they were hot off the grille. I guess it's a good sign that they were still flavorful (albeit soggy) after almost an hour of stewing in their own juices. The tastier of the two was the grilled turkey on five grain bread, which the owner tells me is one of the most popular items. It's adorned with goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes, and grilled eggplant, which add up to a mighty fine flavor. The roast beef with bell pepper on panini was decent, although the mayonnaise had gotten the best of it by the time I'd unwrapped it. The chocolate cake (R120) was a good size and plenty rich. It's a shame that the sandwiches couldn't imitate its proportions.

If you happen to live or work (preferably the latter, because the cafe's only open 'til 6), you might want to swing by here occasionally. If you don't, well, let it drift. It's not worth the trip.

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